Praise the LORD. I will extol the LORD with all my heart in the council of the upright and in the assembly. Great are the works of the LORD; they are pondered by all who delight in them. Glorious and majestic are his deeds, and his righteousness endures forever. He has caused his wonders to be remembered; the LORD is gracious and compassionate. He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever. He has shown his people the power of his works, giving them the lands of other nations. The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy. They are steadfast for ever and ever, done in faithfulness and uprightness. He provided redemption for his people; he ordained his covenant forever-- holy and awesome is his name. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise. (NIV)
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of
a Savior has been
born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a
baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Suddenly a great company of
the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory
to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one
another, "Let's go to David
and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in
the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had
been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the
shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered
them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all
the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
Two young newlyweds were preparing to enjoy their first Christmas dinner together in their new home. The wife was preparing a baked ham. After unwrapping the meat and setting it on the cutting board, the wife chopped off both ends of the ham with a knife and tossed the two small ends in the garbage can.
"Wait a minute," said the mystified husband. "Why did you do that? Why did you just cut off the ends of the ham and throw them away?"
"I don’t know. Every year my father would cook this wonderful holiday ham, and that’s what he always did," answered the wife. "Maybe it helps bring out the flavor."
Unsatisfied with this answer, the husband called his father-in-law. "Can you tell me why you cut the two ends off a ham before you cook it?"
"Well," said the father, "I’m not really sure why. That’s just the way my mother did her ham, and it was always delicious."
As soon as he hung up he called his wife’s grandmother. "Grandma, we have an important question for you. Can you tell us why you cut the ends off a ham before you cook it?"
"Oh, my yes, dear," answered Grandma in her quiet, thin voice. "I cut the ends of the ham off so it would fit in my pan."
Traditions shape our lives, but it’s important to know why we do them. "Because we’ve always done it that way" doesn’t provide enough meaning to keep our traditions from becoming stale and meaningless.
There is no time of the year more filled with traditions than this time of the year.
How many of you have Christmas trees? Great tradition!
How many of you have traditional decorations, like stockings, wreaths and outside lights?
How many of you, during the holidays, gather the family together, fill up your glass with a traditional beverage, then sit in front of the television set, and watch a traditional holiday game of football????
Traditions are great.
But sometimes, traditions become stale and lose meaning. And they begin to misguide us.
One great holiday tradition is the Christmas parade. According to a recent online edition of the Rocky Mountain News, one community in
was preparing for their annual
Christmas parade 3 or 4 years ago and it was going to be an event for
everyone! There were to be floats. There were to be bands. There would be Santa Claus. There would be clowns. There would be everything a Christmas parade
ought to have. Colorado
Well, except for one thing.
One of the city’s largest churches decided to enter a float in this year’s parade.
Now did I tell you this is a “Christmas” parade?
The church’s pastors and elders filled out the proper forms and described their float. They planned a simple float, upon which one of their children’s choirs would be singing.
Well, the form required them to describe their music. The pastor and elders put down a list of well known Christmas Carols.
“Joy to the World.”
“O Little Town of
After all, it was a Christmas parade, and Christmas carols seemed appropriate.
Well, not appropriate to some.
The parade leaders rejected the application. It was too religious, and the city didn’t want to offend people of other faiths.
But it is a Christmas parade.
Christmas is full of traditions – so much so, that these traditions have squeezed Jesus out of his own birthday party.
We get so busy decorating our homes that we forget why we decorate. All those decorations were supposed to draw us toward Christ.
We get so busy shopping and we feel so much pressure to buy the perfect gift that we lose our joy. We lose our patience. We lose a sense of Christ. We get tied up in the crowded stores and we get angry and frustrated with the traffic.
We get so wrapped up in THINGS at Christmas – gotta buy this, gotta buy that, I want this and I want the other thing! We forget the baby born in a simple stable.
You know what has become the biggest tradition at Christmas? Self-centeredness.
It’s all about us!
It’s all about me!
That’s what Christmas has become.
Christmas is becoming so secular that Christ is not even included in some of the community Christmas parades.
If you want to have a great Christmas, you need to look at what the angels did the night Christ was born.
In our New Testament lesson, we read, “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’”
We need to praise God. We need to focus on God.
If you want to have a great Christmas, you need to look at what the shepherds did after the angels announced Christ’s birth. What did they do?
Our New Testament lesson said “the shepherds returned (to their work), glorifying and praising God.”
But you know, it’s all about us, not Christ.
Christmas has become all about the shopping. The eating. The sporting events. The giving and the receiving of material possessions that we often cannot afford to give and that we often do not need to receive.
For some it would be more true if we sang, “Oh Come Let Us Adore Ourselves” rather than “Let us adore HIM.”
These holiday traditions are only good if they help point us toward Christ.
But when the traditions become more important Christ, and when Christ is no longer a part of the tradition, then its time to find a new tradition. It’s time for us to remember what the holiday is all about.
It comes from the phrase Holy Day.
But is there anything left in Christmas that is still holy?
Christmas is not about stress – it is about grace.
Christmas is not about the fullness of our calendars, but the fullness of the Spirit.
Christmas is not how much money we can spend but how much we can give of ourselves.
Christmas is not a time to adore ourselves, but to adore Christ.
O Come, Let Us Adore Him, not us.
Copyright 2012, Dr. Maynard Pittendreigh
All rights reserved.
For copies of other sermons, visit www.Pittendreigh.com